Unrated, 1 hr. 30 min. Directed By: Vittorio De Sica. Release Date: Dec 13, 1949. DVD Release Date: Dec 8, 1998.
I’m always a little leery of black and white foreign films. What they have in Art, they lack in fun and what they lack in fun, they make up for with pretensions. One minute, you’re watching a man contemplating his life, or the play of light off a glass of chianti, and the next, people are inexplicably dead, and a metaphor in the form of a balloon is flying across the screen while some other man pensively smokes a cigarette. I go see movies for the fun. I can appreciate the art inherent in film, but if there’s no fun, for me, there isn’t much. A good movie needs both artistry and fun to be good. Or, at least, that’s my usually not-so-humble option.
And The Bicycle Thief is good. It makes me a little sad that it’s still timely, and that things in Italy are not so different today as they were in the time that this movie was filmed. People are worried about where their next meal is coming from, and the theft of something as relatively inconsequential as the theft of a bicycle can again have disastrous effects. Since I’m 40% into my classic movie project, I’m beginning to realize that the best of these movies are the ones that manage to speak to people long after their initial release. It makes me wonder how the blockbuster films of today will fare in 50 years.
I love the insight into Italian culture here… or maybe this was something I just picked up on: everyone feels totally free to meddle in everyone else’s affairs, say the first thing that comes to their mind, and yet feel totally outraged when everyone else does exactly the same thing. It actually explains a lot of Italian Americans and some of the stereotypical things about them that most of us are making fun of thanks to the cast of The Jersey Shore. Truth, I laughed every time some sort of conflict happened between people, because it was kind of silly… but I do have a few friends of Italian descent who more or less do the same thing, and I laugh at them, too.
This movie is pretty much filled with interesting people and characters, although none are so entertaining as Bruno, the son of the man whose bicycle is stolen. He can’t be more than eight, holds a job that helps his family eat, rarely shuts up, and gives a piece of his mind at the drop of a hat. Any hat. There’s no respect for his elders that would keep him silent in matters he doesn’t fully understand. No… fear (or healthy respect) of his parents to keep his mouth on a leash. I spent half the movie thinking this kid was going to be a terror once he hit puberty.
My only complaint is that there are LONG stretches of dialogue that aren’t accompanied by subtitles. In one scene, it’s a random group of German clerics talking. Then, it seems to be every other scene. Other than that, this was a very entertaining way to spend 90 minutes.